2. Eighteenth century


Betchworth Castle - ruins of a medieval fortified manor and 18th century house made into a romantic ruin Surrey Photographic Record and Survey no. 3194

Betchworth Castle – ruins of a medieval fortified manor and 18th century house made into a romantic ruin
Surrey Photographic Record and Survey no. 3194

The London Influence

London continued to grow during the eighteenth century and its demands on Surrey for food and other supplies continued. This led to growing prosperity for towns such as Chertsey, Farnham, Godalming and Dorking, whose populations began to increase.

The Assembly Rooms, Epsom. Image: Charles Adby

The Assembly Rooms, Epsom.
Image: Charles Adby

Soon Surrey began to attract attention as fashionable society started looking for quieter places to retreat to, without having to move too far from London. One such retreat was Epsom, which became one of the first spa towns in 1711, with assembly rooms, bowling greens and a circular track for coaches just like the one in Hyde Park.

The Beginning of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution marked the move from farming to factories. Britain changed from being mainly agricultural to a manufacturing based country. For Surrey, this change was perhaps less dramatic than in other parts of the country, as the need to supply London continued to keep the farmers of Surrey in business.

However, the late eighteenth century did see a big increase in the amount of goods produced in Surrey and this was helped by the county’s large natural supply of water-based power. The River Wandle for example, had been used to power water mills since mediaeval times, but by the end of the eighteenth century it was said to be the ‘hardest worked river in the world’ with 49 mills travelling its length. These mills were used for lots of different purposes including grinding logwood, making gunpowder and printing and dying textiles.

The Development of Transport Links

The increase of goods made in Surrey meant that better methods of transport were needed. Canals were extended and new waterways built, like the Godalming navigation, in 1760, and the Basingstoke Canal from 1788, which meant that freight could be moved quickly and efficiently from place to place.

With London becoming more popular the need for better roads to and from the capital was becoming urgent. The turnpike roads that had been built during the previous century were improved and extended, and, by 1755, it was possible to drive a carriage safely from London to Brighton.

The War with France

In the 1790s Britain was at war with France and the Admiralty in London was in desperate need of a way to communicate with its major seaports. They built a line of shutter telegraph towers along the route to Portsmouth to allow messages to be passed along quickly. The towers were re-built during the 1820s and many can still be seen today, including one on Chatley Heath, near Cobham.

Eighteenth Century Surrey

  • Betchworth Castle – ruins of a mediaeval fortified manor and 18th century house made into a romantic ruin
  • Reigate Castle – site of a mediaeval castle with 18th century ‘ruins’
  • Wayneflete’s Tower – the brick gatehouse was built around 1480 for Bishop Waynefleet of Winchester. Altered by William Kent in 1729.
  • Museum of Farnham – housed in Wilmer House, an 18th century town house
  • Carew Manor, Beddington – mediaeval house with Tudor and 18th century additions. 18th century brick dovecote nearby
  • Carshalton House, Sutton – early 18th century house with 19th century additions. The seat of Theodore Henry Broadhead, Sheriff of Surrey


Other Landmarks

Museums containing 18th Century collections

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